Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gita, Ramana Maharshi and the Essential Man

In a passage very dear to my heart in A Sudden Clash of Thunder, Osho says: “All private goals are against the goal of the universe itself. All private goals are against the goal of the Whole. All private goals are neurotic. The essential man comes to know, to feel, that ‘I am not separate from the Whole and there is no need to seek and search for any destiny on my own. Things are happening, the world is moving – call it God – He is doing things. They are happening of their own accord. There is no need for me to make any struggle, any effort; there is no need for me to fight for anything. I can relax and be.’”

“This realization makes a man for the first time a little alert about his sleepiness, and then he starts moving more and more towards consciousness. When things are no longer important, only consciousness becomes important. When things are no longer significant, a new search, a new door opens. Then you are not rushing towards the without: you start slipping into the within. The kingdom of God is within. And once you drop identifying with things, suddenly you are no longer fighting—there is no point. You start moving with the river of existence.”

Osho then speaks of how you suddenly see everything is happening as it should once you start moving inward, how you see life is perfect and there is no way to improve upon it. “Then celebration starts,” he says. “When life is felt as perfect, when you suddenly see the tremendous beatitude, the tremendous glory surrounding you; when you suddenly see that you have always been at home—there was nowhere else to go; when you suddenly feel in your innermost core of being that you are with God and God is with you, that you are floating with the Whole, you don’t have a private destiny... the destiny of the Whole is your destiny also, so wherever this existence is moving, you are also moving. You don’t have any private goals.”

Earlier this morning I was going through Be As You Are, edited by David Godman. Be As You Are is a collection of the teachings of my param guru [teacher’s teacher] Sri Ramana Maharshi. Here answering a question about complete surrender, Maharshi says: “Complete surrender does require that you have no desire of your own. You must be satisfied with whatever God gives you and that means having no desires of your own.” Explaining surrender further, Maharshi says that surrender is complete only when you reach the stage `Thou art all' and `Thy will be done.'

According the Ramana Maharshi, the state of complete surrender is not different from jnana, spiritual knowledge born of self-realization, and the distinction between jnana and surrender is only illusory. For instance, speaking of the common feeling most people have that surrender is easier than jnana, Maharshi says: “Surrender appears easy because people imagine that once they say with their lips `I surrender' and put their burdens on their Lord, they can be free and do what they like. But the fact is that you can have no likes or dislikes after your surrender; your will should become completely non-existent, the Lord's will taking its place. The death of the ego in this way brings about a state which is not different from jnana. So by whatever path you may go, you must come to jnana or oneness.”

A question that naturally arises here is: Doesn’t renouncing all private goals make you ineffective in the world?

When Ramana Maharshi speaks of surrender and Osho speaks of the essential man, they are echoing what the Bhagavad Gita says. The Gita speaks of the spiritual man as a sarvarambha-parityagi, one who has renounced all beginnings. The concept of sarvarambha-parityagi is difficult to understand in the beginning, especially in today’s world when we are taught that one of the basic characters of an effective person is initiative. Doesn’t renouncing all beginnings make us men of zero initiative? Consequently, doesn’t that make us totally ineffective, since our effectiveness is directly proportionate to our initiative? And yet, that is what the Gita says: a spiritual man is a sarvarambha-parityagi, a renouncer of all beginnings.

I have always held that to understand the Gita properly, we should try to understand it along with understanding Krishna. That is, allow Krishna’s life to explain the Gita to us. What Krishna teaches us through the Gita is what he lived in his life. Krishna’s life is the greatest and the best commentary on the Gita.

And when we look at Krishna’s life, what we find is a man who is tirelessly active in the world. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a man more active than Krishna. To achieve his mission of establishing dharma in the world, we find Krishna constantly active, now negotiating for peace, now fighting a battle for dharma, now destroying an evil ruler who has been standing in the way of dharma. Now we find him killing his uncle Kamsa, the wicked ruler of Mathura, now getting Kala Yavana and Jarasandha killed, now fighting a battle with Salva the evil king of Saubha, now at Hastinapura trying to avoid the Mahabharata war and when the war becomes inevitable, aiding the Pandavas in the battle for dharma. True he takes a vow of not taking up weapons in the battle, but it is not as a passive driver of Arjuna’s chariot we find him as in the Mahabharata war, but as a very active individual, guiding not only Arjuna’s actions and but of the entire Pandava army. He is there with the Pandavas when Duryodhana hiding in a lake has to be located, challenged and killed; he is there when Dhritarawshtra tries to crush Bhishma in his arms; he is there when Ashwatthama has to be pursued; he is there when Gandhari wants to curse the Pandavas – and everywhere he is active. How do we then explain the meaning of the word sarvarambha-parityagi, one who has given up all beginnings, all initiative?

Speaking of Jesus in his beautiful book Jesus, the Son of Man, Kahlil Gibran says: “Jesus the Nazarene was born and reared like ourselves; his mother and father were like our parents, and he was a man. But the Christ, the Word, who was in the beginning, the Spirit who would have us live our fuller life, came unto Jesus and was with him. And the Spirit was the versed hand of the Lord, and Jesus was the harp. The Spirit was the psalm, and Jesus was the turn thereof. And Jesus, the Man of Nazareth, was the host and the mouthpiece of the Christ, who walked with us in the sun and who called us his friends.”

A sarvarambha-parityagi is like Jesus. He is like Krishna. Sarvarambha-parityagis become so empty of themselves, that they become vessels for the High. The music of the High flows through them as their music. Jesus becomes the mouthpiece of the Christ, the Word, who was in the beginning. Krishna becomes the avarata of God.

When you become a sarvarambha-parityagi, you become like Krishna’s flute.

Krishna’s flute does produce music. It produces the most enchanting music, which maddens with its beauty everyone who listens to it. The gopis of Vrindavan go crazy listening to it and, leaving their homes, go to dance with him on the banks of the Yamuna at midnight on moon-filled nights.

And yet that music is not of the flute. That music does not belong to the flute. That music is Krishna’s. The flute is just the emptiness – the hollowness – through which Krishna’s music can flow.

The sarvarambha-parityagi is exactly like that. He is active. Jesus was tirelessly active all his years on the earth. And so were Krishna and other great masters. But, as Krishna tells Arjuna in the Gita, he has nothing to achieve for himself in all the three words for there is nothing that he has not achieved: na me pārthāsti kartavyam trishu lokeshu kincana; nānavāptam avāptavyam vartaiva ca karmaNi ||BhG 3.22|| He becomes a vessel for the High, a vehicle for the High, a tool for the High. He is active, he performs actions, but those are not actions originating in him, but from the High. As for himself, as for actions originating from him, he has given them all up, along with his ego, his I-ness.

To ask again the question that was asked earlier: Doesn’t renouncing all private goals make you ineffective in the world?

The people who have given up private goals and become essential men are some of the most effective people the world has seen: Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad – the list is long.

Their way is the way of the essential man.



  1. I would like to draw attention to the theory of invisible hand by Adam Smith which he propounded in his famous book 'Wealth of Nations'. He says that if every individual pursues his own selfish goals, the solution thus obtained will be the most efficient and the greater good of the society will be automatically achieved.

  2. A certain former chief minister of a certain South Indian state is known to have 6,000 crores in a Swiss bank. Having pursued his own selfish goals while in office (along with many others of his ilk), can we think the result to be the "most efficient" and the greater good of society has been achieved? What about the plethora of unregulated and ridiculous advertising claims, made by individuals not qualifying as criminals and pursuing their own selfish goals, that lead the gullible to waste their money on spurious products?